Empowering Environmental Justice Communities with Smart and Connected Technology: Air and Noise Pollution, Wellbeing, and Social Relations in Times of Disruption
Lead PI:
Shelly Miller

Major construction projects across the U.S. can have heavy impacts on communities that can last decades. These projects can generate noise and air pollution, disrupt traffic, and affect individual and community health and social structure. Environmental justice communities, or communities with large numbers of minority and/or low-income households, are disproportionately subject to negative health and environmental effects. This project partners with three environmental justice communities in Denver, Colorado to understand and help mitigate disruption caused by two major projects, including a highway reconstruction project and related neighborhood redevelopment. This effort will create a socio-technical system that equips community members with environmental sensors to monitor their personal environment (air and noise pollution) and a set of smartphone apps to report their individual wellbeing and social relations. The data reported through the sociotechnical system will allow us to 1) understand how community members are affected by planned environmental disruptions, 2) mitigate negative impacts of future planned disruptions, and 3) connect policymakers to data generated by citizens within local communities. By providing communities access to data with smart and connected cutting-edge tools and the ability to interact with these tools, the project aims to improve community members’ personal environment, wellbeing, and social relations, while enabling evidence-based responses to community members’ experiences and informing policy and decision makers in real-time.

The project’s overarching goal is to improve the quality of life within environmental justice communities that are impacted by planned, major built environment disruptions, such as the construction of new highways and infrastructure projects. To meet this goal, a socio-technical system (STS) composed of environment sensors, smartphone platforms, and a data analytics server equipped with predictive modeling and visualization is being designed and integrated into communities in order to: 1) understand how individuals’ personal environment (air and noise pollution), wellbeing, and social relations is affected by a planned disruption; 2) mitigate negative impacts of a planned disruption; and 3) equip policy and decision makers with predictive information about potential negative impacts of upcoming disruptions to help them plan appropriate safeguards. This community-embedded research project will study two prototypical, planned built environment disruptions in Denver Colorado: the Central 70 project and the National Western Center redevelopment. The research collaboration proposed in this project is with three affected environmental justice communities: Globeville, Elyria-Swansea, and Cole. It is a partnership of the residents, local community organizations, government entities, and University of Colorado faculty in computer science, air quality engineering, sociology, and engineering education.

This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

Shelly Miller
Shelly L. Miller, Ph.D., is a Professor of Mechanical Engineering and faculty in the Environmental Engineering Program at the University of Colorado Boulder, holding an M.S. and Ph.D. in Civil and Environmental Engineering from University of California, Berkeley and a B.S. in Applied Mathematics from Harvey Mudd College. Dr. Miller teaches about and investigates urban air quality and works diligently to understand the impact of air pollution on public health and the environment. She is also an expert on indoor environmental quality including airborne infectious disease transmission and control and air cleaning technologies. Dr. Miller is a member of the Academy of Fellows of the International Society for Indoor Air and Climate (ISIAQ) and is also an Associate Editor for Environmental Science and Technology. Dr. Miller has published over 80 peer reviewed articles on air quality, authored a Chapter on Indoor Air Quality in the Environmental Engineering Handbook, is an active scientist on twitter, and publishes open access as often as possible.
Performance Period: 10/01/2020 - 09/30/2024
Institution: University of Colorado at Boulder
Award Number: 1952223